Caixin
Nov 06, 2018 08:25 PM
ECONOMY

China to Speed Up Construction of Ultrahigh Voltage Power Lines

An inspection robot measures temperatures near power transmission lines in Wuhu, Anhui province on Sept. 5. Photo: VCG
An inspection robot measures temperatures near power transmission lines in Wuhu, Anhui province on Sept. 5. Photo: VCG

A year ago, Liu Zhenya, the then-chairman of State Grid Corporation of China, was complaining about insufficient government investment in the national power grid, saying the current power grid wasn’t meeting demand.

Liu said there would be few construction projects this year apart from an ongoing ultrahigh voltage (UHV) electricity transmission project from Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region to Anhui province in the country’s southeast more than 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles) apart.

His concerns seem unnecessary in retrospect — authorities will accelerate the construction of cross-regional and electricity transmission and build more UHV lines, according to a guide (link in Chinese) released Wednesday by the State Council, China’s cabinet.

The guide followed the construction plan of power transmission and distribution announced by the National Energy Administration on Sept. 3, when the administration said it would approve nine major power transmission and distribution projects, seven of which would be UHV.

UHV transmission lines first appeared in China in 2009, and by the end of 2017, the country had 21 of them. The lines transmit power produced in China’s resource-rich west to its east, which has higher energy demands. Twelve of the 21 lines transmitted 190 billion kilowatt-hours each of renewable energy, up 10% year-on-year, accounting for 63% of the country’s total clean-energy power transmission, according to the administration.

China’s UHV transmission refers to power transmission lines capable of operating at greater than 1 million volts of alternating current or 800,000 volts of direct current, which are suitable for transmission in large quantities and long distances, and is also especially suitable for renewable energy, according to the State Grid.

China announced plans in 2012 to increase the consumption of nonfossil energy to 15% of the country’s total energy consumption by 2020, according to the administration. Nonfossil consumption made up 13.8% of China’s total energy consumption in 2017, according to a report by the China Electric Power Planning & Engineering Institute.

However, besides increasing investment in infrastructure, the newly announced projects are not enough to make a significant enhancement in transmitting and distributing clean energy, Zeng Ming, professor of North China Electric Power University, told Caixin. There might be conflicts of interests between the local governments and central planners, as the cost of transmitting nonfossil energy usually costs more than traditional energy, Zeng added.

Contact reporter Liu Jiefei (jiefeiliu@caixin.com)

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